The Real Third Rail Of American Politics

It never seems to fail–I go into snarky-commentary hiatus in Maine, and disturbing things transpire: this time around, one in five Americans believe that Obama is Muslim http://bit.ly/bcG5Qh , while 61 percent of Americans oppose a second mosque blocks away from Ground Zero http://bit.ly/boVevL http://bit.ly/9F3aNZ . And those pundits–both right and left–who aren’t attempting to spin these lies to their advantage have been trying to explain How/Why It All Happened http://bit.ly/d2NABT

But no one is grabbing the real third rail of American politics. The reason is, of course, that this truth is both inconvenient and electorally dangerous: pointing it out will take away one of the clubs being used to beat Republicans around the genitals and at the same time insult voters Democrats hope to attract in a few months. But inconvenience and danger don’t make this insight any less true . . .

Of course Republicans, NeoCons and Assorted Wingnuts are the sources of the misinformation about Obama’s religion and the fake outrage over the proposed mosque down the street from Ground Zero. (Did I mention it would be the second one within blocks of the World Trade Center site?) It’s absolutely them: they did it, case closed, book ’em Danno. 

But here’s the thing–I’m not particularly angry at them. This is simply what they do. Were I to stand in front of the tiger enclosure at the zoo and stick my hand between the bars, where, precisely, are my grounds for shock, surprise and anger as I’m being fitted for my new prosthesis? It was a tiger–and, given a chance, chewing off my hand is just what tigers do. This is how I feel about Republicans, NeoCons and Assorted Wingnuts–they are the quintessence of that old punch-line: “Lady, you knew I was a snake when you picked me up.” Put another way, you can’t blame a man for trying–even if that man is Hannibal Lecter . . .

Which brings us to the dangerous aspect–the third rail itself. All 10,000 crackling volts. The genuinely appalling aspect of this twin tempest of Obama’s “real” religion and the fake mosque outrage is not the lying, figurative priests or their respective devout, politically blinded congregations–it’s what it says about the American public-at-large. 

When one out of five citizens believes that Obama is a Muslim, what’s easier: (1) solemnly stating that survey respondents are saying it to obliquely register their displeasure with the Federal government and its policymaking or (2) taking a deep breath and suggesting that the American public-at-large is crazy-stupid/peasant-ignorant with almost non-existent intellectual curiosity and an inability/disinclination to use The Google for anything more than Lindsay Lohan news and porn?

This is not elitism–I’m not referring to the benefits of college or upper-graduate degrees. We’re talking native intelligence here, the kind that’s not about schooling and all about what was once known as common sense. Confession: when I’m standing in a grocery store line, I happily pick up a tabloid and read about how the Alien Bat Babies Found In A Satanic Nursery will quite possibly Fulfill The Prophesy In The Just-Discovered, Newly Expanded Book Of Revelation. As does the person in line behind me–who, quite often, is utterly unlike me in background and education. Sometimes this person is far more sophisticated than I’ll ever be, and at other times, he/she is rougher around the edges. But always–as in every fucking time–we both look up from our tabloids and smile knowingly at each other, shorthanding Who exactly believes this shit? The rocket scientist and I do this; the single mom from the trailer park and I do this. Calling out blatant bullshit cuts across education, status, class, religion and race. Calling out bullshit is the great leveler. Or rather, it used to be . . .

But now, seemingly not so much. With regard to politics, people are reading about Alien Bat Babies and rushing out of line to stock up on toilet paper, milk and eggs because, you know–oh-my-god, something nebulously awful that’s never sourced or questioned is happening! And when I see this occur, I sneer and mutter asshats under my breath. Because this isn’t about Republicans, NeoCons and Assorted Wingnuts–who, after all, are the equivalent of the writers and editors over at National Investigative News of The World: like the tabloid publishers, they’ve always been obvious sleaze-balls who can never be shamed. But the fools rushing up and down the paper products aisle? Well, they really, really should know better. Because they were once better and smarter and more discerning than this.

So until someone of significant pundit-y clout puts the responsibility for both the Obama-is-a-Muslim tempest and the faux outrage over the proposed mosque squarely on the shoulders of an uninformed mainstream America that’s behaving like addled meth-heads with ADD, I’m rapidly losing interest.  

Call me when the gong you want to beat is, say, the real one . . .